Friday, September 4, 2009

In praise of legwarmers, part 1 of 3

Okay, ladies, just forget Flashdance. Pretend you never cut the neck out of a sweatshirt so it would casually slip off your shoulder, exposing the straps of your jog bra. Delete from your memory the humiliating scrapbooked candids of you and your friends draped over benches, your legwarmers meticulously “slouched” down your calves. I’m being serious here. Legwarmers are back, hopefully to stay. So don’t avert your eyes…

It’s the first week of September, and finally, my father’s doubts that my Ivy League education was a colossal waste of money can be put to rest. I have become a crossing guard. Every Friday for thirty minutes before the school bell quaintly rings, I now heft my octagonal sign to protect dozens of distracted children from vehicular injury.

As I learn the ins and outs of my new job (big rush at 8:25, be prepared!), one of the things I’m realizing is that wardrobe is an issue. Our school is too small and the traffic too slow to necessitate the provision of a reflective orange vest, so my fashion choices are unimpeded by a uniform. The clothing issue centers more on temperature. Once the rain starts, it will be easy: dress warm. But this time of year, the last gasp of summer, it’s more complex. The days are hot (too hot, hotter than a few years ago? I always ask, I can’t help it), but the mornings are blanketed in a damp woolen marine layer. Were I simply dropping off the kids, a quick kiss and hug before jumping back into the car, I could get away with the thin cotton skirt, t-shirt, and flip-flops that will be de rigeur by pick-up time. But I have to stand unprotected in the crosswalk, covered by the long morning shadow of a scrub oak which prevents the sunrays beginning to break through the fog from reaching my goosepimpled legs.

If I were headed home after crosswalk duty, I’d just wear jeans and a sweatshirt, but I’ve got places to go (car needs maintenance), people to see (helping a friend edit a paper for school), and things to do (set up laptop at teahouse to write latest blog post), so I’m loathe to return to the house for a costume change. Plus, I’m recently single, so I’ve got a compulsive desire to look cute as I run my various errands. The answer to my problem lurks demurely in my sock drawer: legwarmers. Now, those of you who do not live in towns as hippified as mine will probably dispute my “cute” claims, but I SWEAR it worked: the skirt/tee/sandals, with an overlay of zip cardigan and, yes, what you were dreading, legwarmers. I was cozy as a kitten, hanging out in the crosswalk, and then somewhere between the oil change and the teahouse, the legwarmers slipped right off to reveal my appropriate-to-the-heat original outfit.

Now, I’m not usually one to offer up fashion advice to others, but in this one instance, I’m emboldened by the fact that my whole romance with legwarmers was started by Selena, my way way way hipper-than-me friend who gave me the purse I currently carry, which seriously, without fail, elicits a daily “what a cute purse! Where did you get it?” comment from a random stranger. A couple of years ago for Christmas, I talked Selena into bringing her kids over for our annual Christmas Eve dinner party. It was a basic cultural exchange: my kids came to her seder, hers came to our Noche Buena celebration. Despite my “no gifts” insistence, she showed up with a small package, which I opened after we were all stuffed with traditional Cuban holiday fare.

“Wow, thanks!” I politely said, holding up the navy blue ribbed legwarmers. Legwarmers??? Okay, whatever, I thought.

“Wait!” Selena interjected. “Are those legwarmers?”

“Looks like it.”

“Oh, shit, I thought they were tights. I’m SO SORRY,” she moaned.

“No, no, it’s cool. Legwarmers are great, really. I mean, um, I haven’t had a pair in a really long time.”

“Of course you haven’t. They went out of style about 20 years ago. I’m so sorry—I’ll take them back.”

I insisted on keeping them. I mean, what’s the point in having grown up in the south if you can’t insist on keeping a gift you don’t want. “Really, I love them. Thank you.”

And then they went into my sock drawer to languish for a while…

Coming soon: how legwarmers will SAVE THE PLANET, plus, how to build community through legwarmers. (I’m actually dead serious.) So stay tuned…

1 comment:

  1. Kenna,

    enjoyed the mini-connect at the pancake breakfast--near-4-yr.-olds on hips, etc. Somehow survived 7 years in the Midwest in mini-skirts and tights, wish I'd thought to revive the legwarmers then. But I'm here now. Will continue to look in on you, now that I know you are here, writing so aptly on all that matters to another mom of three.